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Scarily Competent Tracker

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"I know these tracks. These are white miners. Ten mules, two outriders. One of the outriders is fat. The other one has yellow hair. He dyes it."
Native American Scout archetype, Deadlands

So you have a character in the group who is nature-savvy. Maybe he or she is an Elf or Magical Native American or just some gruff Wild Man or Ranger-type. One way to establish that character as being badass and not the Granola Girl is to show him to be a good tracker. Of course, any moron can follow footprints in the mud. Since our character is so good, he'll not only be able to tell you how many people there were, but any of the following also:

  • Who amongst them was carrying the Damsel in Distress.
  • Any injury they might have suffered.
  • How long ago they passed (precision can vary from "Less than a day" to "exactly 45 minutes 12 seconds").
  • What their last meal was.
  • The subject of conversation as they were walking.
  • Alternatively, a Scarily Competent Tracker might very well be capable of doing all of the above on dry asphalt or stones. He's just THAT good.

There are two ways the Scarily Competent Tracker works his magic. The first is to crouch and prod the footprints with his fingers. The other is to stick his ear to the ground and listen. Or possibly The Nose Knows, but that usually goes into Super-Senses. If the Tracker is part of a Five-Man Band, then they typically fill the role of The Smart Guy.

See also Sherlock Scan and Hyper-Awareness. May be represented via Fluorescent Footprints.

Compare They Have the Scent!, with which this trope can overlap. If the Tracker is non-sapient, then you may have a Super-Persistent Predator on your hands. Good luck with that.


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  • Subverted in a car commercial where a hiker, hearing a car coming, demonstrates his scary competency in tracking to his friends by putting his ear to the ground and identifying the approaching vehicle as a high-end sports car. The car that eventually passes by isn't a sports car, of course, but the point of the commercial was supposed to be that you shouldn't be able to tell the difference.
  • A British car commercial had a tribesman observing vibrations and identifying the animals causing them from a great distance. He then spots a car passing in the distance and seems to think it must be a ghost because it's so quiet that nothing is vibrating.
  • Another series of car commercials had random people placing their ears on the ground and managing to identify the brand, model, various specifications, and even the color of the car.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh: Mayaa found his way to Sakaki in what's apparently Tokyo despite the fact that she'd left Iriomote Island by boat, and then left Okinawa by airplane. Granted, the only boats he might've stowed away on would take him to Okinawa, but how'd he then manage to pick the right plane, much less find one girl in a city of millions (and just in time for a Big Damn Heroes moment)?
  • Most of the characters from Dragon Ball are this given their ability to sense energy. Some like Goku's are so advanced that they can find people from across the galaxy. Even before learning to sense energy, Goku could find and track people by their scent.
  • Allen Bradford of The Five Star Stories, being both a member of a Magical Native American Fantasy Counterpart Culture (with some ninja influences) and a Super-Soldier.
  • Especially early on in the series, Gon from Hunter × Hunter was talented at tracking, being able to locate shapeshifting foxes who specialized in stealth in the middle of a dense forest at night.
  • Shampoo from Ranma ½ managed to track Ranma for over a thousand miles, across at least two countries, and the Sea Of Japan. To make this even more impressive, at the time, she barely knew his name and only knew of his female form, which meant she could only follow him when he was in one form, completely losing him whenever he returned to normal.
  • Inuyasha has a preternatural sense of smell, keener even than Shippo's, though not as keen as his older brother Sesshomaru's. It's still keen enough to track someone by scent while running, detect the clash of magical auras, and detect Kagome's arrival through a trans-temporal portal from at least half a mile away, especially jarring, since it is simply not possible to smell something unless the air that carries the scent comes all the way from there to you. He also has heightened sense of hearing, once shown comically when he overhears what Shippo is whispering about him from a distance of a couple hundred feet.
  • In the Samurai 7 anime, Kyuzo puts his ear to the ground and can hear the bandits approaching. It should be noted that the Nobuseri are giant mecha that fly, but it's possible that he's hearing the vibrations from the sounds of their propulsion systems.
  • Ears from Vinland Saga, courtesy of his...huge ears.

    Comic Books 
  • In Arak: Son of Thunder, the title character Arak Red-Hand is a Native American Barbarian Hero in Dark Ages Europe. His tracking prowess is superior to any of the European characters.
  • In Archie, the titular teenager tries to hide with Jughead from Veronica to duck out of an event, after freaking out that she asked Betty to help find him, quoting that she can zero in on him from anywhere. They leave Archie's jacket at Pop Tate's, jump to the countryside and wade in the river to cover their tracks, then decide to hide in Veronica's shed. Problem was, not only did Betty know exactly what they were doing earlier but beat them to Veronica's shed first and just asked her to open it from the inside right before they were about to do so.
    Jughead: Ever thought about tracking missiles?
    Betty: It only works on Archie!
  • The Black Panther doesn't take it to comical lengths, but he can still track a robot through a devastated war zone by seeing how the rubble has been displaced from where the patterns of explosions would place it.
  • In Cavewoman, Meriem is this as a result of having lived in the jungle since she was eight. In Quiver, she is able to track an archaeological expedition a month after it left (although this gets a Lampshade Hanging when she comments that it was a miracle she could find anything after all this time).
  • Bullseye from Daredevil.
    Bullseye: I once tracked an Eskimo huntsman across 200 miles of frozen tundra on foot and killed him with an icicle made of my own frozen feces.
  • Owlwoman of the Global Guardians is a Cherokee who was gifted with enhanced senses and the ability to fly. Her enhanced senses make her a superior tracker.
  • In Legion of Super-Heroes, this is Dawnstar's superpower. she is a master tracker and can track life forms and objects across light years of distance and through interstellar space. She can even use this ability while unconscious, asleep, under mind control, intoxicated or sensory blinded.
  • Laughed at in the Scrooge McDuck story "The Vigilante of Pizen Bluff" (a part of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck), where Scrooge's uncle Angus tries to act like one of these by trying to hunt down the villains by broken tree branches. Young Scrooge and Goklayeh point out that the villains would have to be fairly incompetent to hit the only tree in miles' reach and set out to mock him by 'tracking' the villains by noticing a single bent cactus spine and a disturbed grain of sand.
    Scrooge: This clinches it! This shadow has been bruised on the north edge!
    • Donald's nephews demonstrate this skill often, though they can be tricked.
  • Lobo has an extremely good sense of smell in an atmosphere and an additional sense that lets him track bastichs across the galaxy.
  • Lucky Luke: Tortillas for the Daltons features the Mexican governor's dog, a Chihuahua that is not only able to identify the Daltons just by sniffing an item of their clothing ("Let's see, four individuals of staggered sizes, brown-haired, ill-shaven, with mustaches and big noses, the tallest had a guitar around his neck"), but later can tell where one of them tripped and was very rude indeed. Unfortunately, Rantanplan is there as well, and seeing that it isn't food, goes the other way. The Mexicans believe they'd split up and follows Rantanplan. Luke knows better, though.
  • Parodied in Mortadelo y Filemón by Mortadelo, who tends to put his ear to the ground. Many times, he will miss the actual target. Other times, it does actually work, but it backfires on him.
  • Once upon a time in Paperinik New Adventures Trip, the son of the Raider, was taken from his home in the late 23rd century and brought into an alternative 2015 that, for the Raider, had never happened. Not only did the Raider track him down there, but it took him only a day... Just as expected, as getting him there and changing the future by preventing the Raider's death was the whole point.
  • There's a Robin annual where U.S. Marshal Pow-Wow Smith is trailing the Trigger Twins after they were sprung from a chain gang. He tells Nighthawk, a bounty hunter also on their tail, what he knows so far: they drove into the desert from the interstate a few miles north, in a 1978 Cadillac El Dorado, stolen, Oklahoma plates — from Tulsa. Nighthawk can't believe Smith could learn all that just from looking at some tire tracks, but actually that was all in the Texas Rangers' report on the escape.
  • Sabretooth and Wolverine are both considered to be excellent trackers, even without their heightened senses.
    • X-23 may be even better at this than Wolverine and Sabretooth. Her sense of smell is even better than Logan's, and she's demonstrably been able to locate individuals in a crowded city hours after they were last there. In one case it even allowed her to completely reconstruct a crime scene — including the movements of dozens of individuals — by scent alone. Combine that with her extensive espionage and intelligence training. So when she threatens some mooks by telling them once she has their scent there is nowhere they can hide from her, she's not bluffing.
  • Secret Six: Thomas "Catman" Blake claims to be the greatest tracker on Earth.
    • Turns out to be true in a later storyline.
    Catman:"You'll run. You'll hide. And in the dark... I will find you." (And he does find them.)
  • The Silver Surfer has cosmic senses that allow him to (if narration is to be believed) track a single atom on the other side of the galaxy. That one just moves straight into A Wizard Did It.
  • Spider-Man: Amongst his other enhanced senses, Puma possesses a superhumanly acute sense of smell that he uses to track a target by scent.
  • In The DCU, Tomahawk has this ability, unerringly following a trail invisible to everyone else across a dinosaur-infested jungle in The War That Time Forgot mini-series.
  • Ultimate X-Men: Unlike the 616 Juggernaut's mystic helmet, his helmet is actually a tracking device built by Weapon X that allows him to track down anyone they ever branded. He uses it to track down Rogue in UXM Annual #1.
  • W.I.T.C.H. has Lord Cedric: if he's after you, he will find you. It got to the point that Elias Van Dahl used time travel to escape him, going from Meridian at the end of the twentieth century to Earth in the seventeenth century... And then one day Cedric barged in with his men. It's implied he had actually been there for a while and had just waited for the eve of his wedding out of sheer sadism.
  • Wonder Woman (2011): Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, proves that she earns that title when she tracks down Dio by scent and other things no one else can sense, from at least a hundred miles away.
  • The original roster of the third incarnation of X-Force consisted of Wolverine, X-23, Wolfsbane, and Warpath. The first 3 have heightened senses, the 4th is an Apache Indian (see Real Life below).
  • X-Men: Thunderbird, Warpath, and Moonstar, all Native Americans, have displayed superior tracking abilities.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in The Far Side comic, where a hunter spots some easy-to-miss signs that show a deer has slept there — completely ignoring the sheets, the pillow, a bedtime book, and a picture of a deer that's there also.
    • Another one featured an Indian listening intently at the ground, saying "I hear fifty, maybe sixty horses!", while coming up right behind him is an entire US Cavalry regiment.
      • The best part about that comic was the dropped spear nearby; indicating that his "friend" already spotted the cavalry and high-tailed it out of there without telling him.
  • A cartoon from a magazine features a traditional Indian with his ear to the ground, reeling off the usual list of facts ("one of the horses is lame", etc.), concluding with "A satellite is passing over their position."
  • Parodied in a vignette from the Italian cartoonist Altan, featuring a Native American lying on the ground as if to listen and saying "There are 50, all on horseback." When asked how did he know that, he claims that they ran over him, ten minutes ago.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bridge gives us Enjin. Once it has locked onto an energy signature, no distance or obstacles will hide its prey from it. It was able to track down Aria Blaze while she's miles away, inside the second story of a building, and it is at the bottom of a frozen lake.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Agent Coulson refers to Harry Dresden as possibly the best magical tracker on the planet and calls him 'the Detective'.
    • Uhtred also proves capable of this in Chapter 58.
    • This is Maddie/Rachel's function as Sinister's Hound.
  • In A Great and Powerful Heart, the Great and Powerful Trixie has keen magic and observation abilities that she puts to good use, finding Jasper and Dinky. At one point, she is able to determine the location Dinky went in, simply by finding one of her hairs, and knowing which way it snapped off her.
  • In the Worm x Bloodborne crossover Hunter, Father Gascoigne chases Taylor this way. No matter how far she runs or how she'd hide, he would find her and kill her, returning her to the dream. Eventually, she got Tired of Running and settled the score.

    Films — Animation 
  • Parodied in The Aristocats. Napoleon the dog is able to tell his sidekick Lafayette the size, type, and condition of the pair of squeaky shoes he hears, and then:
    Lafayette: What color are they?
    Napoleon: Why, they're bla— now how would I know that?
Later, he correctly identifies the sound of a one-wheeled haystack.
  • Parodied in Hotel Transylvania when the Wolfman's baby daughter, after a single sniff at an article of clothing from Johnny's backpack, was able to tell everything right down to the number and departure time of the flight he was leaving on.
  • In Mulan, the Huns are able to identify the movement of the Imperial army simply by analyzing a lost doll (although it's a joint effort of four or five commanders and makes a reasonable amount of sense given the setting).
    Shan Yu: [throws the doll to his mooks, who take turns analyzing it] What do you see?
    Mook #1: Black pine, from the high mountains.
    Mook #2: White horse hair. Imperial stallions.
    Mook #3: [sniffs the doll] Sulphur, from cannons.
    Shan Yu: This doll came from a village in the Tung Shao Pass, where the Imperial Army is waiting for us.
  • In Rango, Rango's deputy Wounded Bird can smell blindness. Or an enlarged prostate.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Ace can immediately tell the make and model of the getaway van just by putting his hand on the tire mark it left behind on the football field.
  • Avalanche Sharks: When spring-breaker Carol goes searching for her missing cousin Ross in a wooded area she is only visiting, a snowfall has buried both his tracks and the goggles he dropped before being eaten. However, Carol finds the goggles, glimpsing an extremely small and nondistinctive part of them that isn't quite buried, and digs them up to find proof something happened to Ross. That being said, this is partially a lucky break, as Carol admits to being unsure about whether or not Ross really did venture that far into the woods right before finding the goggles.
  • In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Butch and Sundance are pursued relentlessly by a group specially outfitted to hunt them down and bring them in, dead or alive. The group counts Lord Baltimore, a famous Indian tracker, among its members. Lord Baltimore is talented enough to track Butch and Sundance across stone cliffs, and follow the right horse when they double up on one and let the other horse run off in the other direction, much to the pair's amazement. They only escape the group by jumping off a high cliff into a river, made doubly frightening for Sundance because he can't swim.
    • The Rough Riders, in a dryly hilarious parody of the Sundance chase scene, subverts the trope: the "posse" just happens to be going in the same direction as the outlaws.
  • In the Cyberpunk movie Circuitry Man, there are these two cops who keep showing up in pursuit of the main characters, all the way across the U.S. They're clearly rather incompetent — both the heroes and the villains are constantly getting away from them — but they keep showing up.
  • Etain (Olga Kurylenko) in Centurion. She tracks the Romans relentlessly through the whole movie, even after they use every trick they know, including riding river rapids. One of the Romans remarks, each time, "How does she do that?"
  • In Dead Again in Tombstone, Bull Dog has a superhuman sense of smell. He is able to use it to track Alicia cross-country and drag her back to Silver River.
  • The title character of Dersu Uzala (subject of a book and two movies) is a real-life hunter and super-tracker in the Russian far east.
  • The Eagle (2011): The Seal Prince is able to hunt Marcus and Esca based on just a few things they left behind, like a strand of cloth on a branch.
  • Fair Game: Evil Poacher Sunny. He is able to unerringly track Jessica across terrain that consists mostly of bare rock. At one point, he kneels, touches his finger to the ground, and tastes something. Whatever it is seems to confirm to him that he is on the right trail. Later, he spends a few seconds studying the approach to the farm and is able to correctly deduce that is trapped and decides to find another way in.
  • In an ordinary movie, either Angel Eyes or Blondie would be one. But in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, everyone can track anyone like this.
  • Featured in The Hunted (2003), in which Tommy Lee Jones' character tracks Benicio Del Toro's character, using footprints left by the "untrackable" moccasins Del Toro's character is wearing. Please note that no shoe is "untrackable" if someone is wearing it and walking.
  • In The Incredible Hulk (the Edward Norton version), General Ross is able to track down Banner to South America, and the only clue that Ross had was an elderly gentleman that was sick from gamma radiation poisoning. With that, Ross was able to trace the drink back to Brazil to its processing plant.
  • The Paladins in Jumper are a Church Militant Nebulous Evil Organization who manage to effectively hunt down people with teleporting abilities, and could appear anywhere in the world through sheer expediency and coordination even before they had the technology to do most of the work tracking them.
  • In Jurassic World, Owen's Velociraptor pack, naturally. Owen himself? Not so much.
    Owen: *to Claire, after she says he can track by scent* ...I was in the Navy, not the Navajo!
  • Hawkeye from Last of the Mohicans is a Scarily Competent Tracker in the same league with Aragorn and Humperdinck. Heck, all the Mohicans and most of the Indians are, too (the Mohicans also have Super Running Skills.)
    • Hawkeye's Dad Chingachgook determines it was Ottawa who ravaged the settlements based on the shape of the moccasin-print. Then they track their footprints down the middle of a stream.
    • After the girls are captured, the Mohicans track them up the side of a solid granite hill after spotting a deliberately-turned leaf (see the Aragorn example above).
    • Mark Twain had a lot of fun lampooning the original book for this. See On The Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper, possibly the world's first blog entry. It's troperrific.
    "A favorite one was to make a moccasined person tread in the tracks of the moccasined enemy, and thus hide his own trail. Cooper wore out barrels and barrels of moccasins in working that trick. Another stage-property that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was his broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn’t step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a Cooper person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred handier things to step on, but that wouldn’t satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can’t do it, go and borrow one."
  • Aragorn does this in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (book and film), first tracking the Uruk-hai, then later explaining how Merry and Pippin escaped them during a battle. That latter example is interesting because it takes him no effort to find the traces of both hobbits over a battlefield. To be fair, Aragorn discovers the footprints by accident while mourning them. As he says, "Not idly do the leaves of Lothlorien fall." (The cloak clasp pins of the elves, which are designed with a leaf shape, don't come undone unless the wearer chooses to remove them, so Merry or Pippin had to have been alive and conscious to decide to remove one as a clue.)
    • Aragorn is only able to deduce fairly basic information from the signs and in the book, he outright admits that a lot of what he sees doesn't make sense unless he acknowledges that a few pertinent facts will have taken place elsewhere, or will otherwise have left no visible signs. Nevertheless, he does have impressive tracking skills, which is justified by having been raised and lived as a Ranger of the wilds of Eriador. He does mention having limits, being unwilling to continue the chase across the plains of Rohan at night, as the trail is harder to see compared to when they were in the forest and the risk of losing it in the dark is too great. Also, the only reason he finds Pippin's lorien leaf clasp in the book is that Pippin ran from the Orcs to drop it away from them, so the clasp wouldn't be trampled and hidden. In the movie, Aragorn finds the clasp after it's been trampled and buried in the ground. At another point, he's completely baffled by what he sees, because he's never encountered Ent-tracks before.
    • The original novel also mentions how he tracked down and captured Gollum, one of his most impressive feats. It had taken decades since the only solid clue of Gollum's location had gone cold!
    • For that matter, Gollum himself; following tracks and rumours allowed him to trace a lot of Bilbo's journey despite not starting to look until a year after it happened. He was able to pick up the trail of the Fellowship while they were all stuck in Moria and maintained a pursuit of them all the way out of it despite their taking refuge for a while in Lorien, and then going by river. Even Aragorn admitted that he couldn't figure out a way to shake Gollum's pursuit once he was firmly on their trail. He even managed to track down Sam and Frodo again in the middle of Mordor. Part of this is implied to be a preternatural sense for the Ring, although Gandalf also once stated that long exposure to the Ring sharpened his senses in a way that made him good at things such as sneaking and following and finding secrets.
  • Maverick: Maverick demonstrates this ability when he tracks the fake Indians and recognizes from near-invisible tracks (the tracks were in the dusty layer covering a rocky path) that the horses are shod. He also parodies the "listen to the ground" approach, to get Miss Bransford to do the same. He can't actually do that.
  • Subverted in Night at the Museum. Just by looking at a van's tire tracks in the snow, Sacagawea is able to tell that the man driving the van lost control of his vehicle and crashed. When the impressed onlookers ask how she did it, Sacagawea merely points to the wrecked van farther down the alley.
  • They don't get any scarier than Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. Less scary, but just as competent is Colonel Carson Wells, Ret. from the same.
    Llewelyn Moss: He won't find me again.
    Carson Wells: Took me all of three hours.
  • In Paul Kelly's indie film One Night The Moon, a lost little girl dies because her racist father refuses to let an Australian Aboriginal tracker search for her. He searches for her for several days with a small army of his white friends, but they find no trace. When his wife finally goes behind his back and begs the Aboriginal man for help, he finds her in a couple of hours, but by then it is too late.
  • Billy, the Magical Native American from Predator, does this several times throughout the movie. As does the Predator itself, but it has the advantage of technology.
  • Prince Humperdinck does it on the location of the duel between Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black in The Princess Bride (in the book, it is said that he can track a falcon on a cloudy day), noting that both men were expert swordsmen based solely on their footwork. He does it again on the location of the fight between the Man in Black and Fezzik. And then again at the Battle of Wits site, where he is able to identify the colorless, odorless poison as iocaine powder by smell, though this one was intended as a bit of a joke for observant audience members (though finding a man who'd been killed by ingesting poison and figuring out that it must be a colorless and odorless toxin based on the goblet lacking any discoloration or scent does make sense).
  • The angel Gabriel in The Prophecy is apparently one of these. The creepy part is how he does it: several times, he searches for clues to what he's looking for by...licking things.
  • Two-Bob, an Australian Aborigine working for the colonial troopers, in The Proposition. At one point, he points out some distant smoke on the horizon that nobody else spots. Even after the camera cuts to the horizon, with him pointing out the smoke, you still can't see it.
  • Sniffers of Push kinda qualify in that they can tell everywhere an object has been and who has used it by sniffing. Justified because it's a psychic power.
  • In Rabbit-Proof Fence, the 'school' employs an Australian Aboriginal tracker Moodoo. When the girls run away, they do what they can to conceal their tracks, yet he manages to follow them. (It's implied that he deliberately lets them get away from him.) The DVD commentary reveals that the actor who played the tracker could do the same thing.
  • Parodied in the corny-but-endearing movie Road To Redemption (produced by Billy Graham's Christian outreach organization, so you can probably guess the production values and the overall plot trajectory). After the protagonists' car has an unfortunate encounter with a train, Wes Studi's character gives the bad guys following them a description of the vehicle they took away from the accident and the person who gave them a lift. He then admits that he got that information not from examining the scene, but from finding witnesses to the crash and questioning them.
  • Played for Laughs in Scavenger Hunt. Selsome steals a set of false teeth off an old Indian, who then proceeds to track his Cadillac across the paved streets of the city.
  • Moon, the mixed-race Army Scout, is shown to be this throughout The Shadow of Chikara, so when he cannot find any sign of the hunters who are pursuing them through the wilderness, it seriously freaks him out.
  • Walter Crow Horse, sheriff of the Native American reservation in Thunderheart, tries to convince the FBI that a footprint left at a murder site was of a man who walked like a white man, which the prime suspect doesn't do. The FBI remain unconvinced, so he proceeds to tell one of them about his own weight, eating habits, and ankle holster from footprints. When the FBI agent sarcastically asks how much change was in the man's pockets, the sheriff gives that information too. Given that Crow Horse is a Deadpan Snarker, one assumes that he's joking.
  • The British-New Zealand film Tracker is about exactly one such character. Arjan Van Diemen, a South African boer commando and tracker, pursues Keremea, a Maori fugitive, across New Zealand, using his expert tracking skills. At one point in the film, Keremea hides his tracks in the beach to throw off the posse trailing him. The posse's expert New Zealander tracker falls for Keremea's ruse, but Van Diemen isn't convinced, and follows the correct track.
  • Van Helsing: "It's carnivorous. Whatever it is, it appears to be human. I'd say he's a size seventeen, about three hundred and sixty pounds, eight and a half to nine feet tall, he has a bad gimp in his right leg, and, uh... three copper teeth." The last clue subverts the trope in that he only knows this because the monster is standing right behind Anna, but the rest of his analysis is played straight.
  • In Without a Paddle, one of the hillbillies figures out not only what they did and what direction they went with perfect accuracy, but what they were talking about when they stopped there.
    • Multiple times, in fact. All played for laughs, of course. The first time, he stops, picks up something from the ground, and chews it thoughtfully. A few moments pass in silence, and it looks like he's about to rattle off a detailed description and play this trope straight. When asked what's going on by his more mission-focused partner, he deems the object he's chewing cinnamon, and when yelled at, notes that the heroes have been through the area because all of the broken branches and twigs.
  • Part of the advertising for Wolfen said, "They can track you by yesterday's shadow."
  • Victor Creed in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where he somehow can find his former teammates to kill them.
  • Spoofed in Year One. After Zed and Oh have been exiled from the village from Zed eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge, Zed thinks he's become smarter and all around "better". After happening upon a pile of crap, he proceeds to pick it up, lick it, eat it, and draw random conclusions.
    Zed: One woman, maybe two... And a child. [eats] They ate some apples before.
    Oh: Yeah, and did they eat some shit too? Cuz there's a lot of shit in that shit.
    Zed: My mistake. This is bear poop.

  • This trope is parodied in the following joke:
    A small group of hikers are walking along a narrow mountain road in the Rocky Mountains. Along the way they come across a man lying on the side of the road with one ear pressed to the ground. "What is it?" one of the hikers asks him. The stranger replies, "A horse-drawn wagon, traveling east. One of the horses is chestnut, the other black with a white spot on its forehead. The driver is a young man in a blue flannel shirt, and he has a passenger, a blond woman in a yellow cotton dress." "Wow, you can tell all of that just by listening to the vibrations in the ground?" the hiker asks. The stranger answers: "No, they just ran me over half an hour ago."
  • In a variation on the joke, an Indian presses his ear to the ground and says "Buffalo come." The non-Indian members of the party, impressed, ask him if he can hear the vibrations. "No. Ground sticky."
  • In another joke, a group of hunters come across tracks in the woods. They argue about the details of the animal that left them until one man leans down and claims he's determined the animal's age and zodiac sign. When the others join him, they're all hit by the train.

  • Animorphs had an Insectoid Alien version of this, Taxxon trackers. The Animorphs had a very hard time losing them in the book they were featured in.
  • The Rangers of Ixatan forest in An Outcast in Another World tend to fall under this umbrella. Aside from the decades and centuries of expertise they’ve gained from navigating through the dense and unforgiving forest surrounding the Village, they prioritize putting stat points into Perception, which gives them Skills such as Hunting and Foraging that further increase their capabilities. If someone or something is out in the woods, they’ll find it.
  • In the Belisarius Series, the title character has Abbu, a Bedouin chief who is doing mercenary service as a scout with the Roman Army.
    • Rana Sanga has a Pathan who does this for him. In his case, Rana Sanga captured him in battle. The Pathan serves him on the grounds that any warrior great enough to capture him must be worth serving.
      • The fact that Belisarius is able to fool the Pathans tracking him and escape makes him an instant legend among them.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Beyond the Black River", the Pict spies are easily able to track Conan and his company.
  • Chronicles of Ancient Darkness: Torak's father taught him tracking so well that he's the best tracker in the Forest. Fin-Kedinn states that Torak inherited this gift from his mother and his father taught him to use it so that he'd be attentive to the surrounding Forest and wouldn't make the same mistakes he did in not listening to others.
  • Deltora Quest: Jasmine is an amazing tracker due to having grown up in the Forests of Silence, and can also talk to trees. Her anime version is even more adept to tracking than her book counterpart due to fillers in the show.
  • Discworld:
    • Jingo:
      • Angua the werewolf is, in fact, able to tell what color coat a tracked person was wearing, by the distinctive smell of the dye.
      • Vimes parodies this when he picks up a clove and (having met the man who chewed them) describes him in perfect detail to the others' amazement.
        Vimes: The trick is to know the correct answer beforehand.
    • The Fifth Elephant: Gaspode the talking dog giving a highly detailed description of Ginger (as discerned by smell alone) from Moving Pictures is a parody of this trope.
    • Granny Weatherwax parodies this trope in Lords and Ladies by giving a very detailed description of a man who had recently traveled through the grass she and Nanny are clearing. The reason she knew all those details is because she just stepped on the man's body.
    • Going Postal introduces the golem Mr. Pump, formerly Pump 19, Moist Von Lipwig's parole officer. Once he has Moist's specific karmic signature, there's no place on the Disc Mr. Pump can't track the former con-artist to and, while Moist must eventually stop to rest and eat, a golem can't be stopped. Hinted to be an inborn quality of all golems, which Moist realizes also makes them perfect postmen.
  • Dresden Files: Harry Dresden is in the Yellow Pages as a detective/wizard. Despite admitting to generally struggling with subtler magic, his job as a PI has led to his developing remarkable skill as a tracker and detective, using both magical and mundane means, to the point that his testimony is considered for a crime that happened on the other side of the world from him. He eventually builds a voodoo doll of Chicago in order to track people with as little as a speck of paint from their car.
  • In his nonfiction book Facundo, Domingo Sarmiento claims 1800s Argentina has a lot of them, called Rastreadors, who are so good they can identify whose horse made what tracks and that one was able to track someone down eighteen months after he'd last seen their preserved footprint.
  • Fun Jungle: In Bear Bottom, Evan, the video-game-playing ranch kid, is a surprisingly good tracker. He can determine how fast a bear was moving and when a sneaker print was made while following tracks indoors.
  • We don't actually know how he did it, but in Harry Potter, Rubeus Hagrid tracked Harry and the Dursleys around Surrey and at least one other county before getting tired of waiting and showing up. Note that he didn't even know what Harry looked like.
  • Tom Clancy portrays sonar operators aboard US Navy submarines in much the same way in The Hunt for Red October; while they may have some very sophisticated sensor equipment backing them up, some of the most skilled can tell a hatch slamming closed from a dropped wrench. On the Russian submarine they're tailing.
  • Jedi Apprentice: One side character is such a good tracker that she can follow the path a boat took across open water — the trick is in diving down and studying how benthic life reacted to the boat's wake.
  • Muldoon shows himself to be one in Jurassic Park. He finds the crashed tour car after the T-Rex kicked it, the last known place where Tim and Lex were known to be. After finding Tim’s watch left behind, he notices that while the face is cracked, the band is uninjured, deducing that given the toughness of watch face crystals, it could have only broken during the attack, but the uninjured band means that the T-rex didn’t tear it off the kid. So Tim must have taken off the broken watch after the attack, meaning he survived.
    • The paragraph before, though, Muldoon subverts this. He remarks that it’s usually very difficult to track anything after an animal attack, and while most people assume the aftermath of such encounters are filled with blood and gore, the truth is that there’s usually nothing since a predator can easily kill a child just by shaking them to snap their neck, making it look to the detectives as though the child just walked out.
  • In Labyrinths of Echo, a Master of Pursuit is someone who can magically follow a person's footsteps with their own feet (normally barefoot). Usually the Master has to run all the way until they bump into the person they're trailing; the more focused they become on the trail, the more oblivious they are to anything else—which means they're vulnerable to attacks and should never work alone. A common side effect from a gifted Master of Pursuit being on your trail includes mood shifts: Lady Melamori Blimm gives her victims terrible weakness and depression, while another (posthumous) character was able to fine-tune his target's sensations in line with the seriousness of their crime.
  • Alekhin from the Louis L'Amour novel Last of the Breed. Though it is fairly believable.
  • Lew Wetzel (aka "Deathwind") and Jonathan Zane in Zane Grey's The Last Trail.
  • One of the guardsmen in David Gemmell's book Legend retells how a fight happened, move by move, just from the footprints in an alleyway. Well, that and the bodies scattered around.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn, being a ranger, is this during the pursuit of the orcs in The Two Towers. And earlier, though "off-screen", he and Gandalf somehow manage to track Gollum from the Misty Mountains all the way to Mordor, years after Gollum had made that journey! Then again, Gollum wasn't trying to hide his tracks... and has a habit of devouring raw fish, which would leave behind conspicuous bones with teeth marks.
    • Also the originator of the ear-to-the-ground trick. Most copycats however forget that this works for Aragorn because there are a LOT of orcs who are not bothering to be quiet and moving quite quickly. Also, he never actually finds the orcs who took Merry and Pippin. The Rohirrim apprehend him, Legolas and Gimli first. It's actually an open question whether Aragorn truly heard the footsteps of the orcs, or the Rohirrim's horses (and the latter would actually make significantly more sense). Aragorn doesn't have any supernatural tracking ability, he's just a very very experienced woodsman.
  • Basically everyone from the book Lonesome Dove, but especially Deets, who is somewhat of a Magical Negro. He can identify someone's horse AND that that person was riding it just from the hoofprints.
    • It should be pointed out that the person in question was an old trailmate of Deets and he favoured a certain type of horse and had a distinct way of riding it.
  • Famous Shoes the Kickapoo tracker in the Lonesome Dove series can track pretty much anyone, anywhere. He can also walk further and faster than you can ride your horse.
  • In Martín Fierro: At Song III of the First Book, Martin Fierro describes the Indians as this. At the Song X of the Second Book, Fierro describes how he and a captive woman flee an Indian town and cross The Pampas until they reach the Frontier. They were terrified of this trope because Fierro had killed one Indian and they were after them.
  • In The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, General Zaroff is capable of tracking down his quarry, through a forest, at night. What's more, his target, Rainsford, is himself a competent hunter and tracker, and has the skills and intelligence to make himself as hard to track as possible. Zaroff finds him anyway.
  • William of Baskerville does it too, at the beginning of The Name of the Rose (the book), in what combined with his name is an obvious Shout-Out to good ol' Sherlock. In the film, he's a Scarily Competent Tracker, too, but he does not reveal his deductions till later on.
  • Murder in Coweta County:
    • Sheriff Potts once tracked a murderer from Georgia to Kansas.
    • Sheriff Potts' subordinate, Elzie Hancock finds signs of where Turner's body was disposed of (including the width of some drag marks and a loose piece of fiber) when no one else can.
    After his years of experience, Hancock could follow a trail and tell how old the tracks were, approximately what time of the day or night they had been made, and why the person who made them had gone into the woods.
  • New Jedi Order: In The Final Prophecy, Hul Qat is a trained hunter who follows Tahiri's tracks over moss on a misty day and can tell how she turned to glance back, suggesting she's nearby and knows of his group's presence.
  • In Oath of Swords, Bahzell turns out to be one of these. When he and Brandark set out after the party that abducted Zarantha, he took a few minutes to familiarize himself with the individual hoof prints of the horses they were chasing after.
  • The title rangers from Ranger's Apprentice can track amazingly well — even on horseback.
  • The Redwall books have a number of these. One in Triss is able to keep tracking her target even after they go through a river by picking out broken reeds that they left in their path.
  • Praxas in Gemmell's Rigante novels.
  • Sherlock Holmes did this a lot.
    • In the very first story, ''A Study in Scarlet", he provides this description of the murderer:
      Holmes: There has been murder done, and the murderer was a man. He was more than six feet high, was in the prime of life, had small feet for his height, wore coarse, square-toed boots and smoked a Trichinopoly cigar. He came here with his victim in a four-wheeled cab, which was drawn by a horse with three old shoes and one new one on his off fore leg. In all probability the murderer had a florid face, and the finger-nails of his right hand were remarkably long.
    • His explanation to Watson follows shortly:
      Holmes: The very first thing which I observed on arriving there was that a cab had made two ruts with its wheels close to the curb. Now, up to last night, we have had no rain for a week, so that those wheels which left such a deep impression must have been there during the night. There were the marks of the horse's hoofs, too, the outline of one of which was far more clearly cut than that of the other three, showing that that was a new shoe. Since the cab was there after the rain began, and was not there at any time during the morning—I have Gregson's word for that—it follows that it must have been there during the night, and, therefore, that it brought those two individuals to the house... Why, the height of a man, in nine cases out of ten, can be told from the length of his stride... I had this fellow's stride both on the clay outside and on the dust within. Then I had a way of checking my calculation. When a man writes on a wall, his instinct leads him to write about the level of his own eyes. Now that writing was just over six feet from the ground. It was child's play.
      Watson: And his age?
      Holmes: Well, if a man can stride four and a half feet without the smallest effort, he can't be quite in the sere and yellow. That was the breadth of a puddle on the garden walk which he had evidently walked across. Patent-leather boots had gone round, and Square-toes had hopped over.
      Watson: The fingernails and the Trichinopoly.
      Holmes: The writing on the wall was done with a man's forefinger dipped in blood. My glass allowed me to observe that the plaster was slightly scratched in doing it, which would not have been the case if the man's nail had been trimmed. I gathered up some scattered ash from the floor. It was dark in colour and flakey — such an ash as is only made by a Trichinopoly. I have made a special study of cigar ashes.
    • In the story ''The Sign of the Four", Sherlock notices that a suspect has stepped on tar, so he uses a hound called Toby to follow him. He brags to Watson that he could have used "thousands" of ways to do it, but this is the fastest.
    • In the story "The Devil's Foot", Sherlock claims to have shadowed some suspect. When the suspect says he didn't see anyone, Sherlock answers that nothing is all he will see when Sherlock tracks him.
  • In The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Demane is known as the best tracker in the band. Unbeknownst to everyone else, that's because he can use his superior sense of smell and Hyper-Awareness instead of just poking around in the dirt.
  • Orson Scott Card's Mundane Fantastic Alternate History book series, The Tales of Alvin Maker, has American slave catchers who are made much worse than their real-life counterparts by their supernatural knack for sensing people from afar.
  • The Twilight Saga has James, who at least justifies his skills by having "can track you anywhere" as his vampiric gift.
    • And the Cullens and Bella told him outright where they're going. They did so in an attempt to invoke reverse psychology, but obviously, it didn't work.
    • Demetri, the Volturi's tracker, has the ability to catch the "essence" of a person's mind, which he can then follow over any distance. Unfortunately for him, Bella was a Power Nullifier even as a human, and as a vampire she renders his gift useless.
  • In the Ukiah Oregon series, due to his superhuman senses and wilderness experience, Ukiah is this. His partner Max tells a police officer that he has never failed to find someone who was on foot, and nearly 50% of the time has successfully tracked people who drove off in a car, on the road.
  • In The Underland Chronicles, Twitchtip is a "scent seer", with a nose much more sensitive than normal rats (which can already detect what a human ate hours ago, estimate human emotions, and fight in complete darkness). Among other things she can detect the scent of a rager, newly hardened volcanic rock, a whirlpool, and the color of Boots' shirt from outside the castle tower Boots is in. Her ability to detect color is important for their quest to find the Bane (a pure white rat).
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Many of the Tanith First-And-Only from the Gaunt's Ghosts novels can do this. It's their Hat.
    • Mkoll is a Scarily Competent Tracker even to the other Ghosts. He's also a complete badass. The scene in Sabbat Martyr, where Mkoll essentially has a "Scarily Competent Tracker" CONTEST with a Dark Eldar. Mkoll WINS.
    • An oft forgotten ability of Space Marines is tracking. Space Marines have heightened senses and can even track by taste.
  • In The Wheel of Time, we're treated to Lord Gareth Bryne, whose grandfather allegedly could track a shadow over a river. While the grandfather never actually comes on-screen, the Lord manages to track Suian and Leane across at least half a continent, only because Leane insisted that they ask for directions barely a quarter of the way there. When he successfully finds them, a random soldier informs the women that he has arrived, which is the cue for Suian's priceless and dumbfounded reaction.
    • There was the line about the old soldier who could track yesterday's wind across stone by moonlight. Although it's obviously hyperbolic.
    • Then there's Nynaeve, who out-tracked a guy who is used to dodging dark creatures and magic assassins on a more or less daily basis.
    • Though Moiraine quickly realizes that she was actually tracking Egwene, who she had once healed with The Power and thus could now naturally sense the location of.
    • Although he was helped considerably by his sense of smell and being in a 'shadow world', Hurin tracked an army, not by following them, but actually finding out where they would be in the future, and arrived at the destination where the army was going to camp with time to spare in The Great Hunt.
    • Hurin in general has a paranormal sense for violence that he describes as having a scent. Even the Aes Sedai don't know how he does it. It's known to not be Channelling, so he's assumed to just be a Talent.
  • In Andy Hoare's White Scars novel Hunt for Voldorius, Kholte is angry because although he managed to detect a squad of the Raven Guard, famed for their ability to hide — in time to prevent a fratricidal bloodbath — he missed the company.
  • In The Witchlands, Aeduan can smell blood (or some magical version thereof) across vast distances if he has something that belongs to his target. With this, he can even track people across the sea.
  • Vampires and werewolves both in Women of the Otherworld. Vampires have some sort of weird instinct that lets them always accurately guess which direction someone has gone or if somebody is nearby. Werewolves have heightened senses of hearing and smell, and since they also possess human minds, they're basically tracking dogs that can make well-thought-out decisions and predict where a target they lost the scent of has gone based on human behavior.
  • Voltaire's character Zadig has an example at some point, but it gets him imprisoned due to what is either poor communication skills or smartassery (on his part).

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Huntsman (natch!) does this in The 10th Kingdom: after emerging from the Dwarf mines, he puts his ear to a boulder and is able to hear through the rock (complete with cool shrieking hawk sound-effects) all the way to the Royal Estate where Virginia and Tony are walking. Either something they say is indicative of their location, or he can tell how far the sound traveled because he's able to know exactly where they are.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.:
    • Lord Bowler. "Dirt talks to me, Brisco."
    • And Brisco himself.
      Brisco: [studying tracks from the saddle] Hmmmm...
      [Comet whinnies]
      Brisco: No, I don't know why they left the road.
    • And there was the episode where they were being tracked by a U.S. army Black Ops team. Bowler knew the tracker and said that he was able to track anything over land, no matter what.
  • On Bitten all the werewolves are good natural trackers but Elena is specifically stated to be the best tracker in the Pack even though she grew up primarily in a city. Her senses seem to be better than those of the male werewolves.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Connor, most of it learned during his Quartoth childhood and made possible by his Dhamypr-like enhanced senses. He once said he could track anything anywhere.
    • Not only can Angel sniff the air and tell if the soil beneath him has been disturbed, he can glance at a spot of blood and immediately determine who and what it belongs to. On one occasion, Wesley questions this ability, and Angel says flatly, "You had sex with a bleached blonde last night." This sort of blood hyper-analysis appears to be common to vamps. Spike mentions that you can tell if someone's evil by tasting their blood (it tastes like pennies).
  • One episode of Criminal Minds had an Apache tracker come in to consult on a case that had Native American themes. The man was able to deduce an insane amount of detail, including seeing from Hotch's footprints that he wore a gun on one ankle because his footsteps were slightly deeper on that side.
  • Benton Fraser in Due South, taking the stereotype of all Mounties well past the point of parody. This usually involves whatever the best gross-out is, such as licking something horrible and diving into the sewers.
  • Parodied in Father Ted. When Ted has to locate a lost sheep, he tells Dougal that sheep instinctively head north and gives a long explanation as to why. When Dougal then asks which way is north, Ted sheepishly admits he doesn't know. He then tries to press his face to the ground and gets a face full of mud for his trouble, while Dougal is able to figure out where the sheep is simply by following ominous noises.
  • Fargo has Hanzee Dent, a Native American criminal who works for The Gerhardt crime family. He is able to easily track down the people who kidnapped Rye Gerhardt and even finds clues at the crime scene that the police themselves missed.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Implied with Locke at first. Bolton refers to Locke as his 'best hunter,' and he locates Jaime Lannister (and Brienne) with little overt effort. He proves it in "The First of His Name" where he quickly manages to locate Bran while infiltrating Craster's Keep.
    • They call Sandor "The Hound" for a reason. He's an expert at locating and tracking people. He's even able to find and rescue Sansa in the middle of a riot in King's Landing.
  • An episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys had Hercules turned into a pig by a ploy of Ares and had Iolaus and Autolycus communicating with him via a parrot who could translate for them, along with a female pig who Hercules befriended. A man was tracking them and was able to tell the female pig had a crush on Pig!Hercules as well as know the parrot was on Iolaus' shoulder.
  • House:
    • The series took a different spin on this but nonetheless subverted it all to hell. House's team is attempting to figure something out about their delusional homeless patient's identity and their only clue is a sheaf of artwork she had drawn. House is able to take one look and interpret each of the details in one drawing to mean that the patient was in a car accident in Philadelphia on Oct. 22, 2002. The team's shock at discovering that House is a Scarily Competent Tracker quickly turns to chagrin, though, when House finally concludes that the patient had broken her arm and the doctors had "fixed it — with this!" He holds up a surgical pin, the serial number on which he was able to use to track down the patient's name and medical history.
    • Played straight in the season 3 episode "Whac-A-Mole". House tells his team that he knows what is wrong with the patient, but wants to give them a chance to figure it out for themselves. He writes something down and seals it in an envelope and tells them they can do one test each. After they fail to diagnose the patient, House opens the envelope which, instead of saying the diagnosis, says which test each team member had done and, in Foreman's case, why he had done it (too stubborn to take House's hint).
  • James May's Man Lab: Real Life tracker Ian Maxwell shows tricks of the trade for tracking down escaped prisoners while hot on the trail of James and Oz, who have themselves "escaped" from Dartmoor Prison and are on the run to show how to do orienteering.
  • Krypton: Mauve Shirt Lieutenant Tai finds tracks from Zod's skimmer in a snowstorm (albeit partially with assistive technology) when Lyta and Adam are unable to do the same.
  • In Lost, Locke and Kate do this. Kate is even able to figure out when someone has set up a dummy trail, or when someone has doubled back.
  • The reality TV show Mantracker is all about this. A team of two have to reach a certain point on the map with two trackers on horses on their trail. Even with a good headstart every time, and taking paths the horses can't, the contestants usually lose.
    • It doesn't help the contestants that most of them fall into Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat territory who will waste precious time trying to set up decoys and fakeouts that Mantracker will glance over and discard as obvious tricks before moving on in the correct direction.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: The Marshal, a tracker who has been reputed to be the best there is. He manages to see through Scylla and Nicte's disguises, revealing them with a whistle. They manage to flee, but he still finds them, and expresses admiration that they even temporarily had escaped him.
  • Once Upon a Time: Red Riding Hood and her grandmother can do this because Red is the current wolf and her grandmother used to be one. Ruby, despite not being the wolf and not knowing who she is in Storybrooke, shows similar capability when she manages to track down David by hearing when he's in the middle of a forest.
  • Poker Face: Cliff LeGrand is partially justified by the fact that the series happens in modern-day America, Everything Is Online, and his connections grant him access to said data. Every time Charlie makes any kind of digital footprint, including using her card and someone posting a picture of her on social media, he arrives to the town she is in exactly four hours later.
  • The Pretender: Jarod has a couple of episodes where he displays expertise in tracking people. In one he finds a child and in another episode about a military cover-up he manages to find an elite team of soldiers who are supposed to be covering their tracks.
  • The Cat from Red Dwarf can smell things in outer space. Subverted in the extended version of "Tikka To Ride" when he smells a dead body and lists off several details about him, such as being a big smoker and married. Lister pulls out the man's wallet, finding membership cards for both anti-smoking and gay pride societies.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Ronon Dex from the spinoff show has managed this a few times. Once, he didn't even look at the ground. That could have been bad blocking, however.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Bra'tac and Teal'c sometimes do this, most notably in "Maternal Instinct". O'Neill, being O'Neill, lampshades it. Bra'tac is not amused. Though it's more of a Sherlock Scan; two sets of heavy bootprints and a set of light sandalprints = two men and a woman. Men found dead in one place, woman found dead elsewhere with new group of dead men but with hands unbound = woman was carrying something important. Later he states that the something important was a young girl. When asked how they could possibly know that, they point to a doll that had fallen to the ground.
    • Dr. Fraiser also pulled this off in "Allegiance" when describing in detail how a Tok'ra was killed from behind and with a blade of exotic design. Teal'c and Bra'tac are visibly impressed.
  • Lampooned during the Top Gear Small Japanese Car Hunting episode when Richard Hammond proudly uses his "tracking skills" to follow Jeremy's 4x4 through a forest.
    Hammond: [spotting the tire impressions in the mud] I can see tracks! I'm using my tracking skills; I'm not even using the hounds. [walks into a low branch] Ow, a tree!
  • Despite the show's title, the protagonist of Tracker is not one of these, although he still has a number of superhuman abilities due to the fact that he's an alien Energy Being in human form. In one episode, though, he meets an elderly Native American named Wahota Keene (played by Don Francks) whose son was killed by one of the escaped alien convicts Cole is tracking. Keene immediately recognizes his son's killer by simply looking at him and then shows remarkable skill at tracking his movements in the woods. Cole does find that he likes Keene, given that they're both trackers.
  • Hawk, the Native American deputy, can do this in Twin Peaks. However, at one point, he leads everybody to the wrong cabin in the woods.
  • The Unit: Jonas boasts of being this, while they're tracking the President-elect of the United States.
    Jonas: "I track a man, I can tell you what he had for breakfast."
  • Chuck Norris does this in Walker, Texas Ranger. He is traveling through the forest, gets on the ground, sniffs some dirt, takes a lick, and then states in a matter-of-fact voice that, "A plane crashed here."
  • The black tracker Fuller uses to pursue the bushrangers in the second episode of the Wild Boys. Despite the bushrangers using every trick they know to lose him (riding along a creek, etc), he stays right on their tail. And he isn't fooled by the pig carcass they blow up in an attempt to fake their deaths either.
  • In The Wire, it's implied that Major Colvin wants the cops in his district to be this, as in season 3, he's shown in his office asking two new cops to tell him which direction is which. One points west and the other points upward. These new cops probably do have a decent sense of direction for all we know, (only so many people can tell which compass point they're facing in an enclosed environment) but Colvin doesn't accept his patrolmen being anything less than this trope, so newbies get the fun of carrying around a compass until he knows which direction he's facing and where he is at all times. When the rookies leave Colvin's office, Herc and Carver can't help but mock Colvin:
    Herc: Hey Carv, where you at?
    Carver: I'm at a desk outside the roll call room on the first floor of 1034 North Mount. My feet are facing west and my dick is pointing south-southwest.
    Herc: Bunny Colvin's been giving that speech as long as you guys were sucking air.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, it is technically possible to track a hamster across dry rock, one week after the fact, and just after having snowfall. (DC 39). Depending on bonuses and equipment, this is reliably doable as a frighteningly low level.
    • This does of course only work if your GM lets you. He could as well (reasonably) decide that this would be nonsense and that there simply aren't any tracks any longer, independent from your skill.
  • A D&D spell, Discern Location, allows you to become one - nothing short of full-out Divine Intervention or an equally powerful nondetection spell, Mind Blank, can prevent you from determining your quarry's current plane of existence, continent, country, state, city, and street address.

    Video Games 
  • Ezio Auditore is the most prominent one in the Assassin's Creed series. Justified by his genetic Eagle Vision/Sense ability.
    • By the time of Revelations, he can actually follow a ghost image of his target with his Eagle Vision, seeing the image as clearly as if the person is still walking the path in front of him. You know how, in some games with Time Trials, you have the option to follow a "ghost"? Exactly like that. Oh, and if you're a guard who is on patrol with a set path, he can also see the paths you are going to be walking, and where you tend to stop. And where your path intersects with other guards.
      His Eagle Vision can also pick out concealed doorways and passages, along with being able to find the one person in a crowd who has what he needs. Fifty guards wandering around, and only one of them has a key, which is hidden in a pouch where no one could possibly spot it? Disguised as a hooded priest in a monastery full of men dressed exactly the same way, from whom you are indistinguishable to the point that your own mother couldn't pick you out of a line-up? If Ezio turns on his Eagle Vision, you will be lit up like the Holy Grail. Good luck escaping this man.
    • Connor Kenway fits into this category as well, though in the traditional sense of tracking rather than Eagle Vision.
    • Connor's grandfather Edward has this as well, although lacking Connor's Native American upbringing. One would wonder why a privateer/pirate would need such skills, but they appear to be exclusively based on Eagle Vision rather than training. Once he's caught a glimpse of you, he'll even see you through a building.
    • Interesting enough, this is averted with Altair, who is acknowledged as the greatest in-universe several times. He had the simplest version of Eagle Vision (you couldn't even walk with it like you could with Ezio and the others) but was apparently the most competent of them all.
  • Similar to World of Warcraft, in EverQuest II, a Scout class can track anything from land mammals to birds to fish to entirely stationary mushrooms. In fact, the tracking window even brings up the name of everything in the area, allowing the Scout to track specific NPCs (including ones they have never met before and know nothing about).
  • The opening cinematic of Heroes of Might and Magic III shows Catherine analysing a battlefield and correctly surmising the course of the battle and who its participants were.
  • Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn is not only a highly-trained tracker, her Focus gives her an Augmented Reality interface that she can use to assist her while tracking (by doing things like highlighting their tracks), allowing her to track people and machines much more readily than anyone else can.
  • Apparently Raiden turned into one in between Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, in addition to having Taken A Level In Badass. In the latter, he coaches Snake about tracking, including telling him to check the depth, shape, and stride of the footprints, check for broken branches, and something about the direction of the wind. You immediately have to use this advice to track down another character, and for the most part, it comes in handy.
  • Characters with a high Tracking skill in Mount & Blade are capable of estimating the strength of a warband numbering in the hundreds to within three or four people, can tell you exactly how many hours ago they came through, and can even differentiate between deserters and troops still loyal to their lord. On the other hand, the game fails to provide information that should easily be available to any decent tracker, such as if there are any cavalry present, or if they were escorting prisoners.
  • The Revenant from Nexus Clash can examine any recently slain corpse and deduce the name and current location of both the killer and (if respawned) the victim. Used in combination with their animal forms' Hyper-Awareness, even total invisibility isn't a recipe for safety once a Revenant decides to "investigate" a killing.
  • Tyra from Paladins is a master huntress whose tracking skill is represented by her Hunter's Mark ability. This ability marks an enemy in her sights, revealing their whereabouts to the entire team even through cover and invisibility.
  • Arthur Morgan of Red Dead Redemption II has access to an eagle eye-like ability, presumably a representation of natural keen observation skills. Charles Smith, a fellow member of the Van Der Linde gang of mixed black and Native American descent, gives him a quick rundown of how to track and hunt animals in the prologue (teaching the player how to use the ability), and is implied to be much more skilled at both. Interestingly, if the player activates the ability while in the gang's camp, the trails of individual gang members become visible and identifiable by name, implying that Arthur (like real-life examples listed below) can recognize his fellow gang members by footprints alone.
  • The Tyrant T-103 Type that chases you mercilessly throughout Scenario B of Resident Evil 2 and simply will not die. It turns out he wants Sherry because her locket contains a sample of the G-Virus and he can smell it on her. He goes out of his way to attack Claire because he has Sherry's scent on her after they hugged, and he's after Leon because Sherry's scent rubbed off of Claire onto him when they made contact.
  • Both The Nemesis from Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and The Ustanak from Resident Evil 6 have uncanny tracking abilities when it comes to chasing their targets. Ustanak at least has support and Intel from Neo Umbrella to help him out, but The Nemesis' ability to find Jill wherever she goes in Raccoon City is near supernatural.
  • Twisted Wonderland: Rook Hunt is a ludicrously perceptive hunter who can and will notice the tiniest details of whichever target that piques his interest, and he possesses a unique magic that allows tracking of movements over great distances.
  • Geralt can be this a few times in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings as long as he swigs the right potion that heightens his awareness.
  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Witcher tracking becomes much easier to enter, as it's a special mode called "Witcher Senses" available simply by holding down a key. It's crucial in a great many number of quests to investigate anomalous goings-on. Geralt's commentary on what his findings could mean fit the Scarily Competent Tracker mold to a tee.
  • In World of Warcraft, the hunter class can track things...which basically means they have radar. Confusingly, they can only track one type of monster at a time: if they're tracking humanoids, they won't be able to track beasts.
    • Druids in cat form can track humanoids. Warlocks can track demons.
    • Certain elixirs and food items grant the ability to track specific creature types.
    • Through a certain combination of class, profession choice, and quests, it is possible to be able to track everything in the game. This is only possible if you roll a Hunter (Track Beasts, Humanoids, Dragonkin, etc, etc) who is an Herbalist (Track Herbs) and a Miner (Track Minerals), and who has also managed to fish up a "Weatherbeaten Journal" which, upon reading, allows you to Track Fish.
    • In addition, virtually any character can use tracking to get specific types of NPCs displayed on the minimap, as well as pets to battle once you completed the introduction quest.

  • Parodied early in 8-Bit Theater: Fighter attempts to find a way out of the forest by following tracks. When asked to describe the ones who made these tracks, he gives a perfect description of himself and Black Mage.
  • Deconstructed by Abstruse Goose here.
  • Sabueso from The Dreadful is able to track the protagonist to a location she hasn't reached yet in order to ambush her. He handwaves this as simply down to him being the best. He's lying, but the authorities won't let him use magic in pursuit of Kit so he got them to hire him as this instead.
  • In Elf, the title character notices she sounds scarily competent.
    Elf: Something nasty is stalking a trio of halflings... and one dwarf with a gimpy right foot. It's hunting.
    Elf: I am sounding so pro right now.
  • Girl Genius: She's better known for her cheerfully murderous sociopathy, but Bangladesh DuPree is a very good tracker; when sent out with Gil to retrieve the escaped Agatha, she homes right in on her location. (Though she and Gil promptly get tricked into thinking that Agatha is dead.)
  • Dhur from MeatShield can read dirt He can tell a target's hair colour and dominant hand from their tracks but get lost if he tries to use a map.
  • This is known and ridiculed as "the Aragorn syndrome" in The Noob.
  • Subverted by Belkar in The Order of the Stick, who, as a ranger, is supposed to be a scary-accurate tracker (and was hired as one), but actually has no skill at all at tracking and has, on more than one occasion, forgotten it's what he was supposed to be doing. Belkar is a parody of a combat twink who chooses to be ranger not for their class specialties, but for whatever perks they can exploit in combat. The one time he does track, he uses The Nose Knows. Well, actually, Belkar seems to have some tracking ability, but he is too distracted and uncaring to use it... until Roy points out (falsely) that the person Roy wants him to track has insulted Belkar.
    Belkar: Oh, that's it! I'm gonna track them down and kill their whole family!
  • In Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, the hunting snorf can pick up a scent from a description, admittedly of a distinctive being, and tell she's sick.
  • In Second Empire, the Phonar operator in the Imperial Dalek ship is skilled enough to hear a tool dropping in a different spaceship, deduce its composition, and from there, what kind of tool it most likely was. In the middle of a nebula.

    Web Novel 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: Pony manages to find Jamie by following footsteps in the snow, broken twigs, and can even diagnose his injuries on the basis of the traces of blood. He recommends to Jason that careful observation is more effective than merely running after someone.

    Web Video 
  • Dream: In any challenge where someone is hunting someone else, the Hunter(s) always have a compass that points towards their target, meaning they can always find him no matter where he goes or how he tries to hide. The exception was that they couldn't track locations within the Nether until a Minecraft update changed that. The compass plays a big role in "Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters FINALE." Dream builds a fake Nether Portal so that he could trick the hunters into thinking he was back at the Nether. It would've worked, but the compass gave it away since it can indirectly tell whether Dream's at the Overworld or the Nether depending on if it moves or not since this video was before the update that made compasses work in the Nether.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in the Ace Ventura animated series: Ace finds a footprint and gives a detailed description of the owner's age, size, health, and appearance. Turns out the guy dropped a driver's license next to the footprint.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Sokka does this in the season 1 episode "Bato of the Water Tribe". He spots some scuff marks in the dirt and some broken branches and one water tribe artifact. He's able to determine what happened and make an entertaining story out of it until they get to the beach. He also knows you can amplify vibrations by putting your ear up to a knife stuck in a tree.
    • He's nothing compared to the Combustion Man, however. That guy can track a flying bison (disguised as a cloud) across an island chain.
    • Azula also counts. At one point, she even realizes that the heroes are trying to get her off of their trail after they split up into two separate directions.
    • Well, Zuko tracks the airborne Gaang up one side of the world and down the other throughout season 1. From sea. And then there's Jun and her Shirshu, Nyla, who is the living embodiment of this trope, capable of tracking anything, anywhere on the planet by scent alone.
  • Darkwing Duck, being a mix of Batman and Sherlock Holmes, knows how to locate villains with one seemingly inconsequential clue. For instance, he is able to determine the location of Negaduck's hideout from the composition of a single tiny bread crumb left behind at the crime scene... all the while completely ignoring the giant flag with Negaduck's face on it being raised in the background. In fact, Negaduck planted the crumb there deliberately in order to lure DW to his hideout, knowing full well that he wouldn't notice the flag.
  • The Map of Dora the Explorer knows where everything is even before it gets there.
  • In Dragons: Riders of Berk, Gobber is able to tell how long ago the tracks were made. Stoick openly asks how he is able to do that.
  • Subverted in an episode of Family Guy where Peter and Chris are out hunting deer in the woods (it's winter). Peter sees some tracks, which he then begins to follow. Chris points out that they're SNOWMOBILE tracks, but lo and behold, they eventually come across a deer, drinking coffee from a thermos. It hears them, gets on its snowmobile, and drives away.
  • Principal Skinner displayed this ability in The Simpsons episode "The Boy Who Knew Too Much". He even tracks Bart across a river. By walking straight through it. Also, Homer is capable of reading messages on cake by smell alone and, according to Bart, can hear pudding. Bart himself does it in the episode "Days of Wine and D'ohses"; he can tell a person's country of origin by smelling their cut-off hair.
  • Tracker Smurf, a Season 2 character in The Smurfs, is one of these.
  • Superfriends: In the episodes "Revenge on Gorilla City", "The Time Trap", and "The Village of Lost Souls", it is shown that Apache Chief has exceptional tracking ability.
  • Scourge (whose very title is 'tracker') and his huntsmen, the Sweeps, of Transformers: Generation 1. Scourge's sensors are so good that given a general direction of travel from their current location, he can find people who are on other planets without taking a step. He's reportedly capable of picking out a single amoeba in the ocean, or a wind-up toy in the Sahara Desert.
  • The Wild Thornberrys: Nigel Thornberry, despite his slight Bumbling Dad appearance, is a formidable tracker — even when trying to catch up with a rare rhinoceros who left footprints that led in the wrong direction to try and fool him.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: the Yung!Sang tribe are actually able to define the age, sex, and health of their hunt, as well as how long they've passed by, by the footprints. According to some accounts, they're even able to identify people by name only by looking at their footprints.
    • The Lipan Apache of North America could also do this, plus more, such as identifying various psychological states, body positioning, specific injuries, and fullness of stomach and bladder. They could also follow tracks across solid rock.note  Tom Brown Jr., who learned tracking from a Lipan Apache, has demonstrated many of these skills.
    • From Richard B. Lee's book on the Dobe Ju/'hoansi:
      ...both men and women are able to identify an individual person merely by the sight of his or her footprint in the sand. There is nothing mysterious about this. Their tracking is a skill, cultivated over a lifetime, that builds on literally tens of thousands of observations (see also Liebenberg, 1990). The Ju hunter can deduce many kinds of information about the animal he is tracking: its species and sex, its age, how fast it is travelling, whether it is alone or with other animals, its physical condition (healthy or ill), whether and on what it is feeding, and the time of day the animal passed this way.
    • The Shadow Wolves, a law enforcement group composed largely of Native Americans that falls under the Department of Homeland Security, largely rely on traditional methods to track illegal aliens and drug smugglers who try to cross the U.S. - Mexican border. Their track record is quite impressive indeed, as they're often able to track and catch their quarry using only the slightest of clues as to their presence.
  • Terry Grant from the Canadian reality show Mantracker. Each episode consists of him using his expert tracking skills to hunt down the "prey" (contestants), such as immediately identifying a stump that was freshly cut by observing that the dirt used to attempt to camouflage it included a small pebble that couldn't have gotten there naturally.
    • An extreme example: About every other group will try to "trick" Mantracker by doing something sneaky, like walking backwards through mud, or attempt to double back on their footprints. And almost without fail, Mantracker will take one look at their work and instantly spot the deception.
    • The show also provides a demonstration of the part of tracking that isn't usually mentioned: not merely looking at the tracks, but anticipating what your target is likely to do, so you know where they are likely to go or have been and can pick up the trail after you've lost it.
    • He also explains using other environment clues such as the behavior of the local wildlife in reaction to people walking through. In one episode he notices a pack of wild horses not walking his way to investigate him and his horse, thus deduces that something else must be holding their attention. He quickly finds his prey surrounded by the horses.
  • Jim Corbett was a hunter famous for killing man-eating tigers and leopards that terrorized villages, some of them with victims numbering in the hundreds. He could tell how old tracks were, as well as the sex, size, and condition of the animal that made them. He could even identify individual tigers he had observed before.
  • As shown in this Behind the scenes segment for Lone Target/Manhunt, The Philippine Army Scout Rangers are an entire Badass Army of trackers that can operate with nothing more than their wits, determination and a couple of jeeps.
  • More generally, human beings. Our large brains are very good at taking in details and in turn tracking. Couple this with our impressive endurance, and we can literally chase things to death.
  • The userbase of 4chan is infamous for its ability to coordinate and track down individuals & locations using minute GPS Evidence.
    • In the earlier days of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom, a troll started a coordinated bullying campaign against the author of Ask Princess Molestia, and later fans of the show in general for "not being 'proper' fans like she was". When said campaign went too far, and one of its followers attempted to have a naturalized citizen deported in response to his wife criticizing said campaignnote , 4Chan retaliated by doxxing the troll who started it by using photos on her blog to narrow down the city she was in and then comparing selfies she took in her backyard to images taken from Google Satellite to geolocate her home address and post it online.
    • The most famous instance being Shia LaBeouf's "He Will Not Divide Us" livestream, in which he raised a flag in protest leading to the most elaborate game of "Capture the Flag" known to man. At one point he attempted to hide it by filming the flag from below with nothing but the sky in view, but 4chan trolls managed to locate the flag in under two days by using astronomy, time zones, and detective work with airline flight paths. When he moved it to a deserted cabin, they found it by examining the wood pattern on the walls. The final location was in front of a blank white wall, which they tracked down to a house in London within four hours by examining how a light from off-screen shifted and eventually dimmed.
    • On another occasion, 4chan users managed to pin down the coordinates of a terrorist training camp in southern Aleppo, Syria and coordinated with a Russian journalist to successfully arrange an airstrike on the location using a combination of Google Maps and footage from one of their own recruitment videos.
  • While we can talk a lot about specific humans, the real scarily competent trackers are Bloodhounds. All they need is a little of your scent and then it becomes basically impossible to get away from them. The Mythbusters even busted a myth that it's possible to baffle one even through ridiculous circumstances.
    • Pureblood (and trained) Bloodhounds are one of the few non-humans that can be used as witnesses (instead of as evidence) in a United States trial and, along with their trainer, are considered expert witnesses.
    • Dogs in general. The reason why humans and dogs get along so great is both are persistent hunters, who require this trope to work properly, and both could track in ways the others could not (Humans can develop a good sense of smell, but nowhere close to a dog's, which in turn do not have the visual senses a human has, notably lacking tricolor vision along with the intelligence needed to put clues together).
  • Trevor Rainbolt, more commonly known on social media as Rainbolt. He has gained popularity for his videos showing off his extreme talent playing GeoGuessr (an online geography game where players are given an image and have to guess where in the world the image is from). Rainbolt often adds additional challenges, such as blurring or pixelating images, and has even correctly guessed the location of images while blindfolded and having someone else describe the photo to him.

Alternative Title(s): Scarily Competent Tracking